Oh, hi! You're back. I assume that, after clicking on this link, you immediately scrolled down to pick number 19 to see who the Bucs took before returning to the top. Were you pleased, or at least intrigued? Or did you scoff at my mid-February prediction? Either way is fine; that's why mock drafts exist, and proliferate more rapidly than rabbits.
If you did scoff, it may be because I did not have the Buccaneers picking a quarterback. That consideration obviously took on much more life after Tom Brady announced on the first day of this month that he was hanging up the cleats. With Blaine Gabbert headed towards free agency, the Buccaneers have exactly one quarterback under contract for 2023 at the moment. That's 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask, and wherever you fall on the question of whether Trask will be Brady's successor, there is still plenty of work to be done at the position. As such, we can't ignore the possibility that the Bucs will be one of the team's QB hunting in the first round in April.
As of this moment, however, I think not, and my reasoning is below. I do think that, like many a draft season, the quarterbacks are going to be the overwhelming story of the first round this year, particularly in how the top 10 fall out. For our first two Buccaneers.com 2023 Mock Drafts – Staff Writer/Reporter Brianna Dix and are going to be alternating weeks – however, we are refraining from predicting any trades, so we won't be getting into how those QBs will make some teams jockey for position at the top of the order.
Otherwise, this draft class has some blue-chip front-line prospects on defense, an interesting group of cornerbacks and even a couple tight ends who might come off the board in the first round, all of which could entice the Buccaneers at number 19. On the flip side, after a couple years of extremely loaded receiver groups, that position could be more quiet than usual on the first night of the draft. And there might not be enough elite-level offensive linemen to go around for the teams hoping to land one in the early going.
So, without further ado, here is our first Mock Draft of 2023:
1. Chicago Bears: EDGE Will Anderson, Alabama
The way the winds are blowing in Chicago (something I've experienced first-hand lakeside in January), it seems likely the Bears will move forward with Justin Fields and will be trying to trade down from the top spot. As I noted above, however, we are going to do our first couple mock drafts without trades, so to me this comes down to Anderson or Georgia DT Jalen Carter, and you can't go wrong either way. In the end, the chance to get a premier edge rusher is too alluring. Just look at this list of recent edge rushers who were either the first or second defensive player drafted: Joey Bosa, Myles Garrett, Nick Bosa, Chase Young, Aidan Hutchinson and Travon Walker. You don't get a chance to draft guys like that very often.
2. Houston Texans: QB Bryce Young, Alabama
I fully expect their to be some jockeying among the top three quarterback prospects over the next three months, but for now I'm setting aside concerns about Young's size and thinking his impressive tape wins out. After two straight one-and-done head coaches the Texans are thinking long term with new hire DeMeco Ryans and they give him the most important piece in a rebuild to get him started.
3. Arizona Cardinals: DL Jalen Carter, Georgia
The Cardinals will have an open-for-business sign hanging on their door for the next 11-plus weeks, too, but I don't think they'll move down for anything less than a big haul because Carter is awfully hard to pass up. Anyway, no trades in this one. With J.J. Watt retiring, the Cardinals need a new difference-maker up front and Carter has the power and quickness that will provide that hard-to-find push up the middle.
4. Indianapolis Colts: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
The Colts need a quarterback, obviously, and may not have to move up to get them if either one of the Bears or Cardinals stays put. Stroud is a very accurate passer who sees the field well, makes good decisions and doesn't turn the all over a lot. That's a great place from which to start when grooming your franchise quarterback, but there could be even more to his game if his coaches can get him to use his legs a little more.
5. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver): EDGE Myles Murphy, Clemson
This is the bonus pick the Seahawks got from the Russell Wilson trade and I think they have to use it on a pass rusher to get the right value here. They could use another receiver and maybe some interior D-Line help or a guard for their improving offensive line, but they can address one of those spots at number 20. Murphy might seem like a bit of a stretch at five right now but I'm anticipating a Travon Walker-like rise for him in the months ahead as he puts his freakish set of skills on display.
6. Detroit Lions (from L.A. Rams): CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
Jeff Okudah, the third-overall pick in 2020, came around in 2022 though he was a lot better early in the season than late. Still, even if Okudah is on the rise the Lions still need cornerback help and Witherspoon is talented and tenacious, with very good ball skills. The Lions won't be afraid of going cornerback in the top 10 again; the last four top 10 cornerbacks have been Jaycee Horn, Patrick Surtain, Derek Stingley and Sauce Gardner. Wow.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: T Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
I didn't think about giving the Lions a quarterback, but I did consider it here, with Derek Carr headed out of Vegas. But the Raiders have a decent cap situation and I think they go the veteran route for at least a short-term bridge. What they arguably need more is more protection for whoever is under center. This would work best if Skoronski, who is fluid in his movements and technically sound, stays at tackle, but even if his shorter-than-ideal arms end up pushing him inside the Raiders could use help there, too.
8. Atlanta Falcons: EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
I have the Falcons sticking with Desmond Ridder, their third-round pick from last year, and thus not going after another quarterback here. And, as has been the case for years, the Falcons need more pass-rushing talent. Second-rounder Arnold Ebiketie was a decent start last year but Atlanta's defense still finished dead last in sacks-per-pass-play. The 6-6, 275-pound Wilson has incredible length and was productive the past two seasons, with 14 sacks.
9. Carolina Panthers: QB Will Levis, Kentucky
In the end, the Panthers will probably have to move up if they want to get one of the top three quarterbacks, but in this mock Levis falls into his laps because I had the last four teams – all potential QB landing spots – all pass. Levis had some turnover issues this past season but traditional NFL scouts are going to love his size, arm strength, toughness and baller attitude. The Panthers have been laser-focused on solving the QB situation since Owner David Tepper took over, but they've mostly swung and missed. Now they go the top-10 rookie route.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans): CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
An NFC championship and a top 10 pick. That's the result of some forward-thinking wheeling-and-dealing last year and, given the Eagles' stacked roster, it puts them in position to nab a big-time talent at almost any position. Philadelphia dominated in the trenches on their way to the Super Bowl and could always reload on the defensive front, particularly with a handful of veterans approaching free agency. But I think they'll see Gonzalez as the best available talent at a premium position and bring him on as a possible replacement for pending free agent James Bradberry.
11. Tennessee Titans: T Paris Johnson, Ohio State
Right tackle was a weak spot for the Titans in 2022, while left tackle Taylor Lewan's time in Tennessee, and perhaps in the NFL, are uncertain after his second season-ending knee injury in three years. If the Titans are going to continue to lean on a power running game with Derrick Henry, they need an imposing figure up front like Johnson, who did not allow a single sack with the Buckeyes this past season.
12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland): WR Quentin Johnston, TCU
What better way to begin your relationship with your new franchise quarterback than to get him a high-powered target 10 picks later. Johnston is both big (6-4, 215) and fast, he is a deep threat and he can win contested catches. Texans fans got 12 years of Andre Johnson and seven of DeAndre Hopkins. Johnston could become their next obsession.
13. New York Jets: T Broderick Jones, Georgia
You can't accuse the Jets of ignoring their offensive line. They used first-round picks on Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker in 2020 and 2021 and spent on free agent guard Laken Tomlinson. But injuries decimated that unit in 2022 and Becton, in particular, has played in just one game over the past two seasons. The Jets go back to the well looking for some stability in the champion Bulldogs' left tackle, who is big, tough and feisty.
14. New England Patriots: LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson
I think the Patriots would have jumped on one of those offensive tackles if they made it this far, but now they pivot and add a useful piece to the middle of their defense. Simpson is rangy and productive and, crucially, he holds up well in coverage. Wide receiver is a need, too, but the last time the Patriots took a receiver higher than 32nd overall was before the arrival of Bill Belichick. And Bill has been there for a while.
15. Green Bay Packers: S Brian Branch, Alabama
Adrian Amos is on the decline and is a pending free agent anyway, while Darnell Savage is heading into the fifth-year option of his rookie deal. The Packers have enjoyed some very strong safety play in recent seasons but need to reload and Branch is a great fit. He's smart, athletic, versatile and a great tackler.
16. Washington Commanders: G O'Cyrus Torrence, Florida
Washington's offensive line struggled in 2022 and both Trai Turner and Wes Schweitzer are due to become free agents in March. The 6-5, 347-pound Torrence is a massive load and power is a big part of his game. Torrence had little trouble with the move from Louisiana to Florida and the SEC in 2022, and he should be able to make another quick adjustment to the NFL, helping the Commanders right away.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: DL Bryan Bresee, Clemson
This is another team that just missed out on the offensive line run, and Torrence would have been a great pick-up for them. Instead they pivot to the other line, where Larry Ogunjobi, Tyson Alualu and Chris Wormley are all pending free agents. The Steelers have historically been great at spotting D-Line talent and Bresee is a guy who could rise quickly if his medicals look good in the weeks ahead.
18. Detroit Lions: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
Why not?! The Lions already picked up a stud cornerback with the sixth pick and they also have two picks in the second round thanks to the T.J. Hockenson trade. They can afford to spend this one on hugely-talented but quite raw quarterback prospect who will probably need some developmental time. The Lions can do that after realizing they could put together a pretty decent offense with Jared Goff last year.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
The whole drafting-the-son-of-a-former-NFL-star worked pretty well for the Bucs a few years ago with Antoine Winfield Jr. The team will hope for a similar outcome here as they look to reload a secondary that could take a beating in free agency. Fifth-year players Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Mike Edwards are all pending free agents, as are veteran safeties Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal, and it's going to be very hard to keep them all. Todd Bowles likes big and physical corners and the 6-2, 198-pound Porter fits the bill. He is excellent in press-man coverage and has the ability to mirror routes and use his long arms to knock balls away.
20. Seattle Seahawks: EDGE Lukas Van Ness, Iowa
After getting Myles Murphy at number five, the Seahawks would have loved to find a stud interior defensive lineman waiting for them here. They can still address that need and help a woeful run defense with the high pick in the second round they got from the Broncos, so here they double down on pass rushers with Iowa's powerful and bendy Van Ness. With Murphy, Van Ness and sneaky-good '22 free agent pick-up Uchenna Nwosu, the Seahawks should be able to get to the passer in '23.
NA. Miami Dolphins: FORFEITED
This is the only pick I'm guaranteed to get right. The Dolphins won't pick in the first round as punishment for their offseason tampering charges.
21. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
The Chargers absolutely have to add some speed to their receiving corps, and they need some insurance against what seem to be the inevitable injuries to Mike Williams and Keenan Allen. New Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore will surely be looking to utilize Justin Herbert's big arm more than his predecessor, Joe Lombardi, under whom the Chargers emphasized passes that didn't go far down the field. Smith-Njigba has 4.45 speed, good route-running skills and the ability to get deep.
22. Baltimore Ravens: WR Jordan Addison, USC
Baltimore will also have a new OC in 2022 after parting ways with Greg Roman, and that could lead to more of an emphasis on the passing game. If so, the Ravens are going to need some receivers, as Rashod Bateman has had trouble getting on the field and the wideout room is otherwise headlined by Devin Duvernay, James Proche and Tylan Wallace. Addison has good speed and runs all the routes well, and he was extremely productive at first Pittsburgh and then USC.
23. Minnesota Vikings: EDGE Keion White, Georgia Tech
The Vikings' defense was downright bad in 2022, and it wasn't so hot in 2021 either, and yet the team won 13 games this past season. Minnesota should probably spend most of this draft on that side of the ball, and since help is needed at all levels it's best to go with the best value here and that's a rising edge rusher in White. White's stock was trending upward before the Senior Bowl and he did nothing in Mobile to reverse that trend.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
There's a bit of a muddle at the top of the tight end board, but I think the Jaguars would appreciate Mayer's across-the-board abilities at the position. Doug Pederson's offenses made good use of tight ends in Philadelphia and thrived in his first year with the Jaguars under their new head coach. Engram was on a one-year deal, however, and isn't the kind of complete tight end with blocking skills that Mayer could be. Even if Engram re-signed with the team, Mayer would give them a chance to field some potent two-TE sets.
25. New York Giants: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College
The Giants rival the Ravens as the NFL's receiver-neediest team and here they add a pass-catcher with average size but very good speed and sharp route-running skills that make him hard to cover. This makes even more sense if New York decides to commit to quarterback Daniel Jones long-term and they want to inflate the skill positions around him to continue his ascent.
26. Dallas Cowboys: LB Drew Sanders, Arkansas
Leighton Vander Esch had a bounce back year in 2022 but he's due to hit free agency, as is fellow off-ball linebacker Anthony Barr. The thought of pairing Sanders with Micah Parsons is alluring, as the former has some of the off-ball/edge rusher versatility that has made the latter one of the NFL's best defenders in short order. Sanders was mostly an edge rusher at Alabama but played in the middle of the defense last year after transferring to Arkansas and was strong in both run and pass defense. He also proved to be a great blitzer from that spot.
27. Buffalo Bills: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
As good as they are, the Bills do have some needs, such as offensive guard and cornerback. This is just a matter of a talent they can't pass up, and one that can step immediately into a significant role. Devin Singletary is a pending free agent and 2022 draft pick James Cook is more of a complementary back. Robinson is probably coming off the board before this pick in April, but for now this is how it fell. Having a star ballcarrier could help outstanding quarterback Josh Allen realize he doesn't have to carry the offense all by himself.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State
The Bengals could go for a tight end here if they lose Hayden Hurst in free agency, but cornerback Chidobe Awuzie is coming off injury and Eli Apple is a pending free agent after a middling season. Forbes is slight, which is a concern, but he's very fast and he plays the ball well, as evidenced by his three interception return touchdowns in 2022.
29. New Orleans (from San Francisco through Miami and Denver): EDGE Nolan Smith, Georgia
The Saints have a very difficult cap situation looming (as usual) and thus face the possible losses of front-line defenders Marcus Davenport, David Onyemata and Shy Tuttle. The need might be deeper in the middle of the line but the value at this spot is on the edge. At 234, Smith isn't big for an edge rusher but he actually held up well against the run at Georgia. He could be a dangerous complement to the ever-productive Cameron Jordan on the Saints' line.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: DL Siaki Ika, Baylor
I glossed over it a bit at the their number 10 pick, but the Eagles have six members of their (incredibly deep) defensive front who could be free agents in March, and one of those, Javon Hargrave, is going to get paaaaaaid. It's quite obvious the Eagles believe in absolutely loading up in the trenches – despite having the NFL's best pass rush they added Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph on successive days in November. Ika is huge (358 pounds) but can really move he's hard to block one-on-one.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: EDGE Will McDonald, Iowa State
The Chiefs used a first-round pick on EDGE George Karlaftis last April but with Frank Clark declining they could probably use a repeat in 2022. McDonald mostly played as an undersized interior lineman for the Cyclones but has the kind of speed and get-off that could make him a productive edge rusher in the NFL. If he adds weight, his experience on the inside could also make him a bit of a chess piece like Chris Jones, and the two of them together would be tough to defend.